Monday, February 28, 2011

The Mavericks are Cookin'

(Note: this post will use effective field goal percentage. Here's the definition from Basketball "Effective Field Goal Percentage; the formula is (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA. This statistic adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. For example, suppose Player A goes 4 for 10 with 2 threes, while Player B goes 5 for 10 with 0 threes. Each player would have 10 points from field goals, and thus would have the same effective field goal percentage (50%).")

When the Mavericks had their incredible start in November and December and looked as good as any other team in the league, defense was the common denominator. The Mavericks were fourth in defensive efficiency when I wrote about the defense some months ago. The defense has slipped and that's a topic for another day. The Mavericks have still continued their winning ways but now with a blistering offense that looks practically unstoppable.

Since the Clippers game 16 games ago in which the Mavericks blitzed the Clips in the second half, Dallas is averaging a ridiculous 114.7 points per 100 possessions while having an effective field goal percentage of 55.8 percent. This has to be what Gwen Stefani was talking about when she said this shit is bananas.

To put this in proper perspective, Denver leads the league in offensive efficiency with 109.7 points per 100 possessions. Boston leads the league with a 52.8 effective field goal percentage. Dallas is playing out of its mind offensively over the last month and the next step is why.

If you compare and contrast the Mavericks roster now with the roster that was winning games in November, you can find the reasons. Peja Stojakovic has essentially replaced Caron Butler's production but Rodrique Beaubois has been only "meh" in his handful of games back. Dirk and Tyson Chandler have been continuing their expected brilliance and Shawn Marion continues his steady if not infuriating game of baby hooks and awkward layups.

The difference comes in J.J. Barea and Jason Terry. Terry has scored at least 20 points in five of the past 16 games. The previous 43, he totaled seven games of 20 points or more. It isn't a secret that when Jason Terry is hitting, the Mavericks offense is blazing. But combine that with the ludicrous play of Barea (who leads the league in 3PT percentage since late January) and you suddenly have a potent offense capable of scoring five to eight players in double figures on any given night. Barea had 11 games of double figure scoring in the first 43 games. In the last 16? Another 11. The efficient scoring of Barea and Terry has been made Dallas a tremendous success on offense over the last month.

Now, here comes the shocker. We've all heard the tired adage that the Mavericks are a jumpshooting team with that relies too much on the ultra inefficient two point mid-range jumper. And that was true in the seasons first 43 games (all before the last Clipper game) Dallas only averaged a tad over 18 shots at the rim per game, a very mediocre number at best. And that is saying something.

Over these past 16 games, the Mavericks have been averaging 23.75 shots at the rim per game, highlighted by The Mavericks parade through the lane yesterday afternoon in Toronto, which saw Dallas get to the rim for 30 shot attempts. And these aren't even counting the free throw attempts.

With Roddy Beaubois not even contributing much to the efforts to get to the rim, the chances of Dallas sustaining this are fairly likely. This isn't as much fools gold as other Maverick hot streaks were. Those were predicated on the hot shooting of Jason Terry, Josh Howard and Antoine Wright (*shivvers*)

Maverick fans rejoice: Dallas is (temporarily) an efficient, elite offensive basketball team.

(Advanced stats courtesy of the lovely Che-che-check it out, man.)

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

TROP Gameday Chat: Dallas at Toronto

A 5 p.m. local start time for a game against a really bad Eastern Conference team on the second night of a back-to-back with the Oscars starting sometime soon afterwards. Sounds like perfect conditions for a chat to me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Dust Settles: Making Sense of the Trade Deadline Rubble

In what many are calling the biggest trade deadline since the last big trade deadline, the NBA landscape has changed dramatically. In fact if you're reading this, there's a 50 percent chance you were just traded and should be expecting a buyout this evening. Unbelievably, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson stood pat, surprising with Caron Buter and DeShawn Stevenson's expiring contracts and the young talent in Rodrigue Beaubois. Since there were 405 trades completed this afternoon, here's a quick look at the two big ones that can impact the Mavericks.

The stunner: BOS C Kendrick Perkins and G Nate Robinson to the Thunder for OKC C Nenad Kristic and F Jeff Green

I'm stunned, shocked, flabbergasted and a little stunockgasted. Doc Rivers was famously quoted last June say his starting five of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Perkins has never lost a playoff series (Perkins was hurt in the Finals last year and in 2009 Garnett had a bum knee and missed the playoffs.) It confuses me as to why Boston would move what many consider the best defensive center in the NBA this side of Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan. While we don't have much to worry about on the Celtics side (except for the fact that they are much easier to beat this year if they somehow make the finals) the Thunder suddenly become the "perfect" team. Getting rid of their worst two defensive players for a big man that OKC has been wanting (remember they originally traded for Tyson Chandler) sounds scary on paper and a lineup of Westbrook, James Harden, Durant, Serge Ibaka and Perkins should be terrific. I judge it by this: Last year the Thunder guarded the Lakers Gasol and Bynum with Kristic and Green to start out games. Now? That'll be Perkins and Ibaka. A HUGE game changer to say the least and the Thunder shouldn't be bullied around in the paint by the Lakers, Spurs or Mavericks. Anytime you can get Ibaka and underrated power forward Nick Collison more minutes, it's a win.

On the other side, Perkins knees are made of some combination of glass and drywall and after coming back from knee surgery on his right knee this season, he's been hampered by some strain in his left. Perkins also comes from Boston, which runs a fairly specific defensive set and he his offensively challenged. But still, you can't help but fear the Thunder a bit more after this one, especially since Jeff Green provided Dirk Nowitzki with so many nice practice sessions *rimshot!*

Portland C Joel Przybilla and F Dante Cunningham to the Bobcats for CHA F Gerald Wallace

If the NBA playoffs started right now, the Mavericks would be matched up with the Blazers, so it is worth to take a look at this deal that doesn't quite have the same pizzaz as Melo to NYC or Deron Williams to New Jersey.

First off, Portland sims to love collecting as many perimeter guys as humanly possible. Wallace and Nicolas Batum now anchor the forward spots with LaMarcus Aldridge maning the middle and Andre Miller and Wesley Matthews in the backcourt. It is an interesting moves, with Portland having to pick up Wallace's large contract to play some small-ball. Interesting that the Blazers go smaller as division rival Thunder get bigger. Wallace is a nice defender and rebounder but has never and will never be a good jump shooter. His 43.3 percentage from the field is his lowest since become a full-time starter and his 5.9 free throw attempts per game is his lowest from 2005-2006. A change of scenery could refresh Wallace's drive to get to the rim, but the Blazers are banking a lot of Wallace changing his ways. As far as facing the Mavs, Dallas just has to make sure to not adjust to Portland's small-ball. Sure, Wallace or Batum being guarded by Dirk is a mismatch but the Mavericks should more than make up for it by dominating the glass and if need be, putting Shawn Marion out there to even things out. It would certainly make me sweat a bit, seeing Dirk guarding the perimeter, but as we've seen with Dallas handling Oklahoma City, Dirk is smart enough to know what to do when guarding a smaller player and going against one offensively.

I understand that more deals have been made, with Shane Battier heading back to Memphis and Baron Davis shipped off to Cleveland, but they don't really make much of an impact on how the Mavericks will handle things going forward. Now, the Mavericks not making a move is a topic I will save for later and will tie it into the ramifications of Deron Williams heading to New Jersey. For now, the NBA landscape has drastically changed and some Western playoff teams definitely shored up their rosters. Both will provide Dallas with some interesting problems, but with the way they are playing right now, the Mavs have to feel confident going forward.


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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mavs Don't Land Harris, Now What?

I know by the time you read this, you'll already know about the shocking deal that went down this morning that flip-flopped Devin Harris and Deron Williams. Sure there were some other players and picks involved, but basically the two point guards the Mavericks have had their eye on for some time have been dealt and so have the Mavs chances for landing a big-name player before this week's trade deadline.

I won't bore you with the ramifications of the deal, such as the shocking demolition of what was once a contending Utah team or the Nets' naive approach at hoping Williams sticks in New Jersey after the summer of 2012. Instead I'll shed light on the fact that the Mavericks tried to land Harris straight up for Caron Butler's expiring contract and balked when New Jersey also wanted rookie guard Dominique Jones.

This brings up two crucial points: 1.) The Mavs ARE willing to deal Butler. 2.) The Mavs AREN'T dealing anyone else. If Dominique Jones, whose upside is no where near Rodrigue Beubois' but some felt he was more NBA ready this season, and then failed to impress in pre-season before not earning anytime with the Mavs at all before going down with a foot injury, then what are the chances the Mavericks move Beaubois before the deadline? I'm actually somewhat shocked about the Jones aspect of this deal. While Jones was a promising combo guard out of South Florida and his ability to get to the rim was unquestioned, he couldn't shoot and failed to get any minutes at the NBA level. The Summer League helped boost Jones' stock by not only showing off that ability to get to the rim, but also being able to make a play at the rim, whether it is scoring or finding another teammate. Jones was bound to get some burn at the start of the season, mainly because Rick Carlisle felt he had enough offensive skills combined with his on-ball defense to make some noise. The pre-season changed everything as Jones inexplicably failed to convert at the rim, constantly driving to the hole, making good moves but missing layups. It was truly baffling.

Jones fell out of the rotation completely and with the Mavs ability to not blow teams out, Jones stayed on the bench until being demoted to the Texas Legends NBA D-League team. Jones played well, averaging a tad over 18 points per game while getting to the free throw line about seven times a game, a great number. Jones was doing everything the Mavs asked and scored 30, 24 and 20 in his last three games before fracturing his foot. In five of his D-League games, Jones got to the line at least 10 times. It was sad to see his development derailed but also a high mark of confidence from the Mavs (and the Nets) that he be mentioned in this deal and also be taken out of it. I'm not sure in what universe trading two players who won't play this season for an All-Star doesn't make sense, but apparently for the Mavericks and Nets, it did. It's a bold statement from the Mavs to turn down such an offer and I hope the team chemistry of Caron Butler leaving had nothing to do with this deal. If you turn down a trade in which you give up practically nothing for a guy who can go off for 20 a night, there better be good reason for it. The minute situation would have been prickly with Harris here, but I'm not sure it makes this deal null and void.

The Mavericks love Caron Butler and Dominique Jones, two players that will have no impact whatsoever on the Mavericks' playoff hopes this season. I can only hope they know what they're doing. It does make me relaxed that the Mavericks are floating Caron Butler's deal out there, but I always fear that the connection he has made with his teammates and Dallas are valued more than it is actually worth. Don't get me wrong, chemistry means a whole lot more in basketball than it does in say, baseball (and a certain baseball team in the area has had many debates over the worth of chemistry) but hopefully not more than enough to potentially improve the team.

With Harris out of the picture, any major deals involving the Mavericks have dried up. Mike Fisher has reported that the Mavs are balking at Gerald Wallace, who's defense and rebounding would have helped a great deal, but his outside shot would have limited a Maverick offense that depends on the three or small forward to hit corner threes off Dirk double teams. That's why Caron Butler's career high 3PT percentage was helping such a great deal and why Peja will be a helpful stopgap.

And if you want to read about my thoughts on Harris coming here, I already talked about it. From here on out though, I believe the Mavericks have the pieces to contend, they just need to be patient and see them fit. After all, isn't the Mavericks biggest need a perimeter guy that can shoot and attack the basket? Isn't that exactly what a fully-formed Beaubois is? Trading Beaubois now for something he can be later seems a little counter-productive to me, especially since this team has 40 wins without him making significant impacts on the game. We always want the Mavericks to be on the agressive and bring in some sort of savior, but for once, standing pat might be the best moves this years Maverick team can make.


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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Programming Note: Vacation

For once in my life, I'm actually going to take time to celebrate myself for just a little bit. I won't bore you to tears with my past birthday failures or I why I don't get all worked up about the day I came out of my mother's womb, just letting you know that I will be in Austin all from tonight till Sunday, so unless Adam (the co-host/producer of our excellent/terrible podcast) wants to run the gamechat for tonight against Phoenix or maybe even for the All-Star weekend, you're all out of luck.

I'll still have my laptop with me, of course, to do my other job requirements and maybe I'll throw up a post between now and then, especially after last night's sweet, delicious and tasty game. Check me out on Twitter (link below) because I'm sure I'll have plenty of thoughts on the All-Star Saturday night. Also, I should be home in plenty of time for a special All-Star Gamechat so we can all bitch and moan and watch Dirk takes two shots.

Or maybe I'll be defecating on a parked car in the middle of downtown Austin. It's a toss up.


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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Take Dat Wit Chew: The Rice of Passage Podcast Episode 3

How was your Valentine's Day? Mine was wonderful because this podcast was making sweet, sweet love to my ears all night. Here's a little bit of what you can expect to hear about this episode, with exclamation points:

Game Recaps!
Roddy B Talk!
Phillip Long!
Nash Trade Talk!
Mic Problems! (Who needs to hear Josh anyway?)
DeMarcus Cousins in a Blanket Fort!
Bob Ortegal Speculation!
Josh Being Unintentionally Racist! Twice!
My Roommate Showering!
Me Saying I Like the Skills Contest and then Immediately Bashing It!
This Video!

What Josh Means When He Says Peppering!

All this and much, much more. For free. Every comment restores a little bit of Josh's will to live!

Now safe for listening ears.

High? Listen to this version. It's more your speed.


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Monday, February 14, 2011

C'est bon de te revoir, Roddy B

Rodrigue Beaubois has become legend in a way among the DFW area. His name conjures up hope -- visions of a brighter future and the mystery of the unknown. He is normally spoke of as some savior, a hero of sorts, to bring justice to a town starved of any kind of championship. In a way, you can see he's the hero Dallas deserves AND the one it needs right now.

Because he brings something to Dallas that the team hasn't really had during its playoff runs. Sure, the Mavericks have had shooters (Dirk, Nash, Finley, Van Exel.) They've had slashers (Devin Harris, J.J. Barea...uh...Devin Harris.) But there has never been a real combination of the shooter, slasher and the athletic ability that Beaubois possesses. Harris came close, but his outside shot seems to have been left buried in the deep snow of Wisconsin. He never found it in Dallas and isn't finding it in New Jersey.

What even fascinates us more with Beaubois is the possibility. Teased by his raw talents in his rookie season, we've all had to wait five months before finally seeing how Roddy B could do with the spotlight squarely on him. The glimmers of hope last year from the games in Chicago where Beaubois stood toe-to-toe with Derrick Rose, the 40-point explosion in Oakland or the controversy and brilliance in San Antonio. All stories that are all legend-worthy.

When Beaubois steps back onto the court either Wednesday or Thursday night, what can we possibly expect? For one, the rust of not playing any sort of organized basketball for five months. Beaubois just recently became ready for full-contact practice and before that was doomed to the tedious task of rehabbing and shooting drills. Even though Beaubois has been exerting a lot of effort in working out (Chuck Cooperstein on the radio today even mentioned that Carlisle had him running up the steps of the lower bowl in the Toyota Center in Houston for about half-an-hour) we should temper immediate expectations. If you care to argue, see Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic. Granted, Beaubois has age on his side, but considering the differences in layoffs, I would expect almost the same, if not more, rust.

Once the dust has been kicked off the tires, the possibilites, offensively, could be extraordinary. In only a little over 12 minutes a game last season, Beaubois shot an astonishing 51.8 percent overall, 40.9 percent from three and scored 7.1 points per game. Take that to per 36 minutes? It's a Dallas Maverick fan's wet dream -- 20.4 points per game, four rebounds, 3.8 assists. While it would be weary to expect those sorts of minutes, the production per minute, is realistic. Beaubois, as a pure scorer mind you, is almost perfect. His only knock being his height (which he more than makes up for in athleticism) and perhaps his usage rate (24.7 percent last year, a fairly high number) but the usage won't matter if Beaubois keeps pouring in the points in an efficient manner. Beaubois is the total package: A deadly three-point shot with a quick release, an explosive first-step, a variety of maneuvers and release points once inside the paint and pure, unadulterated speed. Beaubois took over 50 percent of his shots last year from two places: at the rim and beyond the arc. He is the definition of an efficient scorer. One can only hope that the broken foot did not damper what is Beaubois' most glaring attribute -- his speed.

There are of course other questions and flaws with Beaubois that hopefully people can temper when salivating at their overall expectations in the coming days. He still can't run an offense, with high turnover numbers when being the primary point. While having the physical gifts defensively, Beaubois was overmatched in any pick and roll or help scenarios defensively at times last year. He also falls in love with the three-point shot a bit much, not hesitant to fire a step back jumper well behind the arc early in the shot clock. And it will be interesting to see what Beaubois will do with video crews and coaching staffs honing in on him more than ever before. Maybe they'll finally figure out how to stop this:

The next big question comes down to minutes. With the spectacular play of J.J. Barea and the steady play of Jason Terry, who gets the axe? Most likely it will be DeShawn Stevenson who is 3 for his last 15 three-pointers and hasn't hit the 20 minute plateau since Feb. 5. Barea is, dare I say, indispensable due to his ability to control the offense off the bench and with his heightened play. Terry has the skins on the wall. Marion is the team's best perimeter defender. Peja looked fantastic against Houston. Stevenson is the odd man out, it seems to look like. Expect him to start games and third quarters, but not much after that.

The time has finally come. Beaubois will emerge from the night to bring forth possible salvation for a Maverick's team looking for an elusive championship. As Zach Lowe mentions, despite the splendid play of Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks are again a middle of the pack team both defensively and offensively. They are in essence, the same team that flamed out against the Spurs, at least statistically. Beaubois, however, is different. He represents change, something new. I believe in Roddy B.

(Just for fun, here's Beaubois' scintillating performance against Golden State last year. So, so good.)

(All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and HoopData. Check them out, ya dig?)


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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How Frail Life Can Be

(Ed. Note: Apologies for no posts Sun-Tues. Just couldn't get around to it with other duties. Also, Take Dat Wit Chew Episode 3 wasn't recorded because of the snowpocalypse that has and is ravaging North Texas. Expect Episode 3 to drop on Sunday baring the weather. Also one more request -- I get comments from my articles on Facebook, Twitter, in person or e-mail which is great. But if you read something you like (as infrequent as that might be), have something to add or talk about, go ahead and comment. I know I'm sounding like a hypocrite since I don't regularly post comments elsewhere but it would just put a sparkling smile on my face if I see a couple of comments on every post. Thanks, now on with regularly scheduled programming. PS sorry for the emo title. I just thought it sounded better than "Injuries Really Suck and are Scary." Actually, that's not a bad headline...)

When Dirk Nowitzki awkwardly stood on the baseline right in front of the Mavericks bench, holding his right wrist, my stomach was in my shoes. Anything could have happened, especially with the way he was favoring it and not trying to shake it off. Was it broken? Did he sprain it? Could it be something with his hand? OH GOD THUMB SURGERY (the worst words I can imagine for a basketball player besides "microfacture surgery.") If you don't think thumb surgery is brutal go look up Miller, Mike in the basketball encyclopedia. He's just now getting over the injury he suffered in late October and appearing somewhat back to Mike Miller normalcy.

It was learned it was nothing more than a jammed wrist. Slap some tape on it and Dirk was back on the court, although very hesitant to do anything more than he had to. It's understandable as the right wrist of Dirk is his bread and butter. But my constant night long heart attack had to continue because the Mavericks almost dropped a game to the D-League All-Stars and word was Dirk was getting an x-ray. I was eventually calmed by the negative results, but it got me thinking that the injury-free karma train the Mavericks have been riding has almost undoubtedly kicked them off. Roddy Beaubois, Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler (if only for a game or two) and Dirk have all missed time. Considering the clean injury history this franchise has had since Dirk arrived, I guess you could say we were due.

I just can't help but think how lucky Dirk's jammed wrist was. If you saw the play, you know what I mean -- his wrist was pulled back awkwardly as Ian Mahinmi squished it on accident going for a rebound. There are hundreds of bones in the hand and wrist, anything could be cracked. I should know as I rather embarrassingly fell and broke the tiniest bone in my wrist that kept me from any basketball activities for six weeks. Perhaps the Dallas Mavericks injury luck was shining right there. But this season has forced me to have an average of six heart attacks anytime a player doesn't immediately bounce back off the court. It just worries me that much. And it makes my head spin that if Dirk's wrist had bent at a slightly different angle or maybe a centimeter farther back, the Mavericks season would be put into the toilet.

On the subject of injuries, health and luck, I have to point out a slight disagreement I have with Bill Simmons assessment of Dirk Nowitzki's ability to continue to define the 30-year-old line NBA players face. He labels Dirk in with perimeter players which is a slight discount to Dirk's durability. Simmons is right in every way about how NBA players are getting stronger and how remarkable these players are in their later years, but while Dirk's skill sets scream perimeter player, it isn't the exact truth. Dirk battles in the post far more than any of the players he listed and posts up more often (despite Kobe's newfound approach to the post.) Even if we disagree on Dirk's post play with his offensive game, there's no denying Dirk takes much more punishment on the defensive end, having to help in the paint, rebound and endure the hardships that are wrestling for a basketball. To this end, it makes Dirk's iron-man abilities even more astounding and makes me wish I never have to see Dirk looked dazed, confused and awkward on the baseline at the end of a quarter ever again.


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Saturday, February 5, 2011


On Friday night for the Dallas Mavericks, it was the same-old, same-old. Being out-worked be a supposedly more physical team. Defense seemingly not in the cards. Dirk Nowitzki putting the team on his back with his teammates floundering down the stretch. Another big game in the spotlight with a national TV audience to laugh at the Mavericks and think "Yep, this is another first-round exit, soft team."

And really I couldn't get over how horrendous things were going for Mavericks not named Dirk and Tyson Chandler. After the Celtics took a six point lead with a little over three minutes to go on a ludicrously left-open Ray Allen (I remember screaming "WHAT KIND OF F***ING DEFENSE IS THAT?! THE "LEAVE RAY ALLEN OPEN" DEFENSE?!") I started to get my depression filled night of Maverick sorrow all ready. Things changed, however. The Celtics started rushing shots (Ray Allen's quick trigger on a three under a minute to go was really, really surprising for a veteran like himself) and the Mavericks, well did the same if it wasn't Dirk. Jason Terry and DeShawn Stevenson looked completely panicked with their last attempts from the field, and luckily Terry was able to cool his jets (pardon the pun) to knock down two free throws to get the Mavericks within one after two appalling shots from himself and Stevenson.

The ensuing offensive possession was a tad surprising -- A pick and roll with Rondo and Garnett, with Garnett popping out on the pick instead of rolling towards the basket. If you've watched any close Celtic game in the last three years, you know the clinching play is either Ray Allen curling to the baseline for a corner three, or Paul Pierce operating at the free throw line, looking to knock down his patented elbow jumper. Neither happened and while Garnett was relatively open, he was a bit outside his range, very close to the three-point line. The jumper rattled in and out, and the Mavericks were given life yet again.

The play that ensued was sheer beauty.

Running off "interference" from Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion (I say that because they weren't setting picks, persay, but Terry did use them to try and shed Rondo to a degree) Terry then curled of a Dirk screen that blew up Rajon Rando. Garnett was forced to step out on Terry leaving Dirk completely open for a short midrange jumper which he could have taken immediately or worked the clock a second or two more and shot over Rondo or accepted the double team. But Terry's pass was directed straight into Dirk's shins thanks to Garnett's ability to bother Terry on the catch. Dirk was able to gather and was swarmed by Rondo, Perkins and Allen. Garnett stayed with Terry and Pierce was able to both stay with Marion and Chandler as they were both on the weak side. With Marion not being a threat at all to shoot the corner jumper, he primarily stayed with Chandler to prevent an easy drop down pass from Dirk. What surprises me is Allen leaving Kidd. Rondo and Perkins already had decent position to double Dirk and prevent any easy outlets. Dirk, somehow, was able to keep his composure on the wild pass and found Kidd open at the top of the key. The rest, as you say, is history as Kidd calmly shook Allen off as he tried to run him off the three point line and then knocked down the game winner.

Jason Kidd was 3-for-9 and 1-for-4 from three before that shot. Remarkable, also considering that while it may seem like an easy, open shot (not regarding the stressful conditions of the shot) anyone who has ever played basketball will tell you that shooting a three-pointer (or any long jumper) is increasingly harder after having already stepped into the shooting motion and pump faking. The fake throws you out of your rhythm and unless you want to hit a two, you can't step into the shot with an escape dribble. Your balance is all off and the entire motion of taking the shot is different and more awkward than a simple catch and release. Bravo, Kidd.

I realize this is still regular season game, before the All-Star break, but you can't help but get chills after a game like this. This is still a different Maverick team and while the steady play of Dirk, Terry, Kidd and Marion are nothing new, Tyson Chandler is quietly becoming the best off-season acquisition this side of Miami and New York. It's hard not to notice, but Tyson Chandler is completely eradicating the Erick Dampier Era, averaging a double-double since January and putting up 15 and 10 last night. He's a true difference-maker in every sense of the phrase, and much more deserving of an entire post rather than this measly paragraph. Watch Chandler closely at the end of the clip right after Kidd's three splashes down. I've never seen Erick Dampier jump or be as excited as that. It's a joy and a pleasure to watch.

And what more can I say of Dirk Nowitzki, whose 21 of a game-high 29 points came in the second half, against what is regarded the best defense in the NBA? I've been in agreement with others that we shouldn't rush to arms and declare Dirk being back to his first team All-NBA self, but it's hard to argue with the results we've seen the last week. It's a shame I have to bring up his dreadful rebounding numbers (four on Friday is not acceptable) but considering he finally grabbed an offensive rebound, Chandler and Marion had a double figuring rebounding nights and he carried the team throughout the third and fourth quarters, I'll give him a break.

There are still some concerns of course. Before the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, Dallas' defense wasn't anything to write home about. The rebounding can still get better. J.J. Barea finally touched his feet to the ground after spending a week or so in basketball heaven. But this is still without Caron Butler's 15 points and five rebounds every game. It's still a shame we probably won't ever see this team with Butler and Roddy Beaubois fully healthy, but right now, it was nice to see the Mavericks rise up when the nation is watching.

(If you want to laugh or indulge in seeing the other side, check out CelticsHub, CelticsBlog and RedsArmy game recaps and read the comments section. Don't be a troll, but it is amusing to see BOSTON fans complain about foul calls.)


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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gaining Steam

I don't normally like to recap or focus on a singular game because other places on the interwebs do it much better than I ever could. But after last night's 113-97 win over the New York Knicks, I couldn't help it. Dallas looked fantastic last night against a solid playoff-bound team with players that usually give Dallas headaches. The weak, timid, putrid and ugly Maverick team that we were watching no more than a week or so ago has completely vanished. In its place is the team we all grew fond over December with the added bonus of a fully functional and alive J.J. Barea.

Now, the New York Knicks are a dreadful defending team and an even worse rebounding team. So the statistical-nuggets of the Mavericks posting season-highs in points and rebounds seems slightly hollow. But still, out-rebounding any NBA team by 20 is somewhat of an accomplishment considering that Dallas is a poor rebounding team in its own right. And that offense was crisp, smooth and efficient. It's even more impressive since Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion went a combined 3-for-18. Imagine if those two guys were just slightly more on their game? Dallas might of been exploring a 130-point kinda night.

I'm also particularly giddy about the rising game of Dirk Nowitzki (then again, when am I not?) After only shooting above 50 percent once in his first seven games since returning from injury, he's been above 60 percent in his last three. Dirk isn't just returning to form -- he's back to annihilating the puny basketball souls that dare to test him. Dirk had the entire repertoire in force Wednesday night: face up jumpers, step-backs, fade-a-ways, one-legged runners in the lane, spin moves, back to the basket and of course the transition three. Dirk still isn't ready to say he's 100 percent yet, which should absolutely terrify the rest of the league. I know I get long-winded when talking of Dirk, but he truly amazes me no matter how many times I watch him play. Call it my tragic flaw.

Supplementing Dirk more than ever last night and over the last week has been Barea. I've already spoken about Barea's recent heroics but it needs to be reinforced how efficient he's been, especially last night. Sure, maybe he forced one pass too many or one drive too carless last night, but he still finished 7-for-12 and only three turnovers in just around 30 minutes. I'm not sure what's gotten into Barea, but he's providing the exact same production I feel many Maverick fans envisioned Roddy Beaubois to have this season. He's getting to the rim, he's shooting lights out from deep and even maintaining the team offense to boot.

Which brings us to another point of interest that reminds me of the pre-injury Mavericks -- lockdown second halves. Remember those fourth quarter shutdown games in Utah, San Antonio and in Dallas against Miami? That was on display again after the Mavericks effectively took Amare Stoudemire out of the game (Tyson Chandler held him scoreless in the half) and somehow, Jason Kidd kept Raymond Felton in front of him and forced him into long, contested twos. After the run-and-gun first quarter, New York failed to hit the 25-point plateau in any of the final three frames. If the first half defensively was "Batman and Robin" the second half was definitely "Batman Begins."

The Mavericks tied their biggest margin in a win for the season last night. Was it their best game of the season? Probably not, but it was close. It gave us a glimmer of hope, a sign of a team regaining the swagger and confidence it once had. I find it interesting that the team's two worst stretches of play (the 3-10 mark during the injuries to Caron Butler and Dirk and the 7-4 start to the season) both have outside factors influencing the play. One was a rash of sudden and brutal injuries to main cogs and the other was the usual slow and timid start some NBA teams have at the beginning of the year as they figure out rotations and roles. It's starting to become a fact -- when Dirk is completely healthy and on top of his game, this year's Maverick team is about as good as it gets. The additions of Beaubois and Peja Stojakavic should only help matters. Another test awaits in Boston, but I think we have our "true Mavericks," back for the time being.


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